Communion Of Dreams

“An abnormally excitable way.”

I woke about 1:00 this morning, rolled over and looked at the clock. My side hurt, the way it usually does. But it was the nasty bit of headache which had the bulk of my semi-conscious attention. I reached over to the nightstand, picked up the pain pill I had left there. I sat up enough to pop it into my mouth, then picked up the water glass, took a drink to wash the pill down.

About 4:30 I repeated the task.

I still had the headache when I finally woke at about 6:00, just before the radio came on.

* * * * * * *

Our house is about 130 years old. It has a narrow central staircase off the kitchen which leads to the second floor, making three 90-degree turns in the process. As far as I know, these stairs are largely original, though there were some minor modifications made at the bottom back in the 1950s.

Between the first and second turns there’s an exposed nail where someone made a mistake in construction. It came through the riser, but didn’t enter the tread properly. Part of the wood popped loose, and at some point broke away. But it doesn’t really hurt anything, and is out of the way, so no one has ever bothered to fix it.

I notice things like this.

* * * * * * *

The energy dynamic has changed again.

Well, to be honest, it is always changing. But while I had been riding fairly high in my bipolar cycle, now I can feel the old doubts, the old fears starting to creep back in.

Doubts? Fears?

Of failure, of course.

As I contemplate putting together the Kickstarter for St. Cybi’s Well, I start to worry. Will it be successful? How the hell am I going to reach the audience for Communion of Dreams to let them know about it? For that matter — can I even write the damned book, and if I do, will everyone just hate the thing?

* * * * * * *

Yesterday the Diane Rehm Show had a segment about migraines. From the transcript, this is Dr. David Dodick, neurologist at the Mayo Clinic and chair of the American Migraine Foundation speaking:

Well, Diane, when one does a functional scan, like Dr. Richardson just talked about, whether it’s a PET or a functional MRI, we see activation of certain regions in the brain and certain networks in the brain, particularly those networks that process sensory information, like light and noise and pain and emotion. So we see activation of all of these networks during migraine. And indeed what we’ve come to recognize now is that not just during a migraine attack.

But even in between attacks the brain is processing all of that sensory information in an abnormally excitable way. So, migraine was thought to be just a disorder that comes and goes and you’re perfectly normal in between. But we now recognize the fact that it’s an abnormal processing — abnormal network processing in the brain that continues even between attacks.

* * *

And that’s one of the reasons why we, as a medical community, absolutely must take this to sort of more seriously. Migraine sufferers are three times more likely to have psychiatric disorder such as depression, anxiety, bipolar illness. They’re twice as likely to have epilepsy. They’re twice as likely to suffer an ischemic stroke. They’re six to 15 times more likely to develop brain lesions.


* * * * * * *

I woke about 1:00 this morning, rolled over and looked at the clock. My side hurt, the way it usually does. But it was the nasty bit of headache which had the bulk of my semi-conscious attention. I reached over to the nightstand, picked up the pain pill I had left there. I sat up enough to pop it into my mouth, then picked up the water glass, took a drink to wash the pill down.

About 4:30 I repeated the task.

I still had the headache when I finally woke at about 6:00, just before the radio came on.

I’ve had this headache off and on for the better part of a week. Maybe longer.

The codeine I take each evening/overnight to deal with the torn intercostal muscle pain is also effective at disrupting the development of a full migraine. But the cycle still tries to complete. It’s annoying.

But some things you learn to live with. Like imperfections in old homes. Yes, I’ll see the Kickstarter through, as well as writing the book whether or not the Kickstarter is completely successful.

Some things you learn to live with.

Jim Downey


As the days grow longer.
December 24, 2011, 2:22 pm
Filed under: Art, Depression, Failure, General Musings, Health, Migraine, Predictions, Survival

“So, how’re you doing?”

It’s the sort of question which comes after all the preliminary stuff, all the catching-up with an old friend who I haven’t seen in a couple of years. Your best friends are like that: able to ask the same question that everyone asks, but have it mean something more.

* * * * * * *

This morning I woke up, not hurting.

This was unexpected. Yesterday had been a long day, and I hurt a lot. The source of the pain was just a minor case of post-nasal drip. No, that didn’t hurt. But it caused me to do a fair amount of coughing. That’s what hurt. Yeah, because of the torn intercostal muscle high on my right side, which feels like a broken rib. The one I’ve had for about 16 months now.

So I expected to hurt. In fact, most of the time I expect to hurt.

Chronic pain is different than short-term pain. Oh, I’ve broken plenty of bones, and know what it means to *really* hurt for days, and then to ache for weeks. For a couple of decades now I’ve had a knee which can cause an immense amount of pain if I subject it to the wrong kind of use, and that pain will remain intense for a week or so. Pain is no stranger in my life. Never has been.

But chronic pain, that’s different, as I’ve come to learn. It almost takes on a physical weight, which you have to carry around. That wears you out, sometimes sooner in the day, sometimes later. It functions like a restraint you have to strain against to accomplish anything. It’s like having a migraine – a full fledged, nausea-inducing, sparkly lights & mild vertigo migraine – and still having to drive over an icy road into the sun.

* * * * * * *

My garden still hasn’t been put to bed for the year. Yeah, it’s really late.

It’s just one manifestation of how this year has gone. Everything has taken longer than I expected, cost more than I thought it would, and didn’t work out quite the way I hoped it to.

Partly this is due to the chronic pain. Partly it is due to mistakes on my part. Partly it is just because of chance. By turns this has made me depressed, disappointed, disgusted. Sometimes even on the brink of despair.

And yet…

* * * * * * *

“So, how’re you doing?”

It’s the sort of question which comes after all the preliminary stuff, all the catching-up with an old friend who I haven’t seen in a couple of years. Your best friends are like that: able to ask the same question that everyone asks, but have it mean something more. I am fortunate enough to have several such close friends.

“It’s been a long year. And not a good one.” I looked at my friend. She nodded. “But I’ve had worse. And I’ve had an idea about a new story I want to tell…”

Jim Downey

February 19, 2009, 11:23 am
Filed under: 2nd Amendment, Ballistics, Guns, Health, Humor, Migraine, Preparedness, RKBA, Sleep, Survival, Violence

I haven’t mentioned it here yet, but the other day one of the cats tried to kill me, and almost succeeded.  Evil little bastard.  As I told a friend:

Dance of Stupidity & Pain

My afternoon was filled with a whole lotta screaming and cursing.  Well, OK, “filled” isn’t quite right, since it was mostly compressed into one 10-minute period.  Which started with me putting down a can for the dog, then turning to try and avoid stepping/falling on the cat coming to investigate.  Damned cat.  I now have three rather nasty punctures deep into the back of the web of my right hand, along with a ugly bruised big left toe, and a swollen left knee.  Oh, and lots of pain associated with all of those, plus the spike in my headache following the adrenaline dump of trying not to kill either myself or the cat.

Well, the headache went on to become a nice little migraine, and the knee is still extremely annoying.  Nothing to see a doc about – this is the knee I’ve had surgery on twice, and I know exactly what is going on.  I probably broke the last bone in the toe, but the only thing they do with those is to take it easy and tell you to let it heal – I’ve done it too many times to count.  Anyway, the low-grade pain has interrupted my sleep the last couple of days, the headache persists, and I’m more than a little grumpy.  This may have influenced my appreciation of the movie last night, but I don’t think so – it was dreadful enough in its own right.

But I just came across something to make me chuckle.  In one of the gun discussion forums I check out, the topic of “why do you carry” came up.  I’ve written about this before, of course, and have my own reasons.  Here’s this, though:

Remember the average response time to a 911 call is over 4 minutes.

The average response time of a 357 magnum is 1400 FPS.

Heh.  The guy’s numbers are even about right.  Well, for the .357.  Response times for 911 calls vary widely, but all are measured in multiples of minutes.

Jim Downey


As I have noted, I have been fairly busy of late.  And in looking back over the last couple of months, I can see a real change in both my energy level and my ability to focus – it’s no longer the case that I want to nap most of the time.  Yeah, I am still going through a detox process, still finding my way back to something akin to normalcy – but there has been a decided improvement.  Fewer migraines.  More energy.  A willingness to take on some additional obligations.

So I had to debate a long time when I was recently contacted by a site wanting to expand their scope and impact.  These folks.  They were wanting me to do a column every two weeks, more-or-less related to Science Fiction (giving me a lot of latitude to define the scope of the column as I saw fit).  They have a lot of good ideas, and seem to have a pretty good handle on where they want to go in the future.  And the invitation was a real compliment to me – not only did they say nice things about my writing, but they have a good energy and attitude which is appealing.

But I declined the invitation.  Why?  Well, to a certain extent it’s like Bradbury says: “You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”

I may come to regret this decision.  It could possibly have helped my writing career, at least in terms of landing a conventional publishing contract.  And I know from writing my newspaper column that the discipline can do good things for me – forcing me to address a specific topic rather than the more general musings I post here and at UTI.  But I really do have a lot on my plate right now, and they are all things I want to do well, rather than just get done.  Blogging here (which is really quite important to me).  Participating at UTI.  Crafting this book about being a care provider.  Getting the ballistics project website up and running.  All the book conservation work waiting for me.  Eventually getting to work on St. Cybi’s Well again.  And enjoying life.  There’s been precious little of that these last few years.

So, I declined.  But if you perhaps would be interested in the gig, they have contact info on their homepage.

Jim Downey

And now, The Migraine.
February 8, 2008, 6:19 am
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Doctor Who, General Musings, Health, Hospice, Migraine, Predictions, Sleep

I was half expecting it.

As mentioned previously, I suffer from migraines upon occasion. Perhaps a bit surprisingly, the last couple of months have been fairly light in that regard. But I have one now, of the “stress-release” variety.

Last night, for the first time in the better part of a week, we cooked dinner and relaxed watching a couple of episodes of Doctor Who (more on my getting acquainted with the new series later). I had a couple of scotches, but that’s not a lot for me over the course of the evening. I fell asleep later in front of the computer, catching up on news of the world. In other words, I was starting to spin down from recent events.

I went up and went to bed, while my good lady wife did the dishes and caught up on some email. I woke sometime after midnight (not sure when) from the pain of the migraine. Got up, went and took some OTC stuff I hoped would shut it down, went back to bed. Woke up again about 4:30, pain worse. Got up and took some more OTC stuff and something stronger to give it a boost. Unfortunately, those meds include a fair amount of caffeine, so getting back to sleep was not much of an option. I laid down, let them work for a while, then got up.

It may seem odd to you that I would be suffering a stress-release migraine going into what is likely to be a fairly stressful and emotional weekend, what with the memorial service tomorrow and all. I’m fairly introverted, and the prospect of a large public gathering and all that concentrated emotional outpouring is rather daunting.

But that is nothing in comparison to the stresses of caring for someone with dementia who is dying. Even now, all my instincts and conditioned reflexes are concerned first with taking into account where Martha Sr is, who is keeping track of her, what needs to be done next in the usual care regimen. Yesterday, returning from errands I needed to run, I glanced at her bedroom window as I drove up the driveway, to see whether my wife had her up from her afternoon nap and had opened the drapes. This morning before grinding my coffee I went to shut the door from the kitchen in order to muffle the sound and not disturb her sleep. And those are just two of the dozens of examples I could cite from the last 24 hours. It will take months, at least, to set aside these reflexes, to fully become ‘free’ of the ingrained habits of years.

So, yeah, I have a migraine. Not horrid, with the meds I have in me so far, though this post may be a bit less coherent than it could be. I should still be able to play house-elf today in preparation for the visitors we will have this weekend, and to make the memorial book for the service tomorrow. If it doesn’t get a lot worse I should even be able to function well during the public outing tomorrow (I got a lot of experience with that sort of thing while I owned the art gallery). But there it is – perhaps the first marker of the real change in my life.  We are, after all, born in pain.

Jim Downey

I can sympathize.

Umberto Eco, when asked why he wrote The Name of the Rose, famously replied: “I wanted to poison a monk.”

I can sympathize.

There are times when I’m a little grumpy, or have just had a little too much exposure to my fellow monkeys, when I’d like to kill a few people myself. In fact, catch me when I’m feeling more than a bit honest, and I’ll admit that part of the backstory of Communion of Dreams is because I think that the world really would be better off with about 2/3 of the population gone, as traumatic and painful as that might be. No, I am not advocating it – I can just see the benefit of some pandemic flu or plague, in terms of the carrying capacity of the planet.

And of course I see plenty of ways in which we’re well on the road to having this happen, as I write about here upon occasion. Take your pick: war, terrorism, global warming, disease, or even just eating ourselves to death. I just came from the store, where I needed to get some frozen raspberries for a habanero jelly recipe I want to make. There in my neighborhood supermarket were 120 feet of freezers carrying various ice creams and other dessert treats. One aisle over was 60 feet of frozen pizzas. I looked and looked for frozen fruits, and found one narrow little rack, about half the width of one 10′ wide freezer unit, containing a small selection of fruits. Think there’s something wrong there?


OK, I am a little grumpy. I’m in a cycle of migraines, it seems, having had two in the last week. Still living with the echoes of the one yesterday. But still, sometimes I feel very pessimistic about our future . . . and take a certain perverse pleasure in it.

Well, this is the 200th post. Woo-hoo. I’ll be a little more upbeat later.

Jim Downey

September 17, 2007, 7:00 am
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Book Conservation, Comics, Health, Migraine, OOTS, Sleep

I’ve suffered periodic bouts of migraines since adolescence. I know there are some food triggers, and I know that physical and emotional stress also can start a cycle. I even have “stress release” migraines, when some particularly difficult or demanding situation is over. I know several different types and intensity of migraine, from the ones that just make you a little miserable for a few hours to the ones that make it a almost impossible to get out of bed for two or three days. But most of all, I know that modern medicine offers me no real hope of relief from the damned things, and the best I can do is deal with them symptomatically with a range of mild to powerful narcotics.

Yeah, I’ve got a migraine. Been keeping it at bay for the last few days, having sometimes to resort to the least powerful of my Rx meds. Gah. Makes it hard to get anything done, and I have a *lot* to get done – a book conservation project I promised a client two weeks ago, a trip to pick up the first installment of books for the new client tomorrow, interviews with a reporter about being a care-provider, et cetera. Charming.

But at least OOTS is back from hiatus!

Jim Downey